These four nominated mini-movies all demonstrate the difficulties inherent in the 30-minute form, caught between the succinctness of PBS NewsHour segments and the in-depth critical approach permitted by feature length. A case in point is Dan Krauss’s “The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club,” about a South Africa--based photojournalist who won a Pulitzer before committing suicide in 1994. It’s a worthy subject, but the proportions are off: The movie (to paraphrase Chinua Achebe) uses the fall of apartheid as a backdrop for one man’s tragic death, a comparison made explicit when it’s suggested that Mandela’s election didn’t bode well for Carter’s career.
“God Sleeps in Rwanda,” directed by Kimberlee Acquaro and Stacy Sherman, serves as an effective counterbalance, showing the ravages of rape and HIV on the country, as well as the strides Rwandan women have made in the past decade. Better still is “The Mushroom Club,” Steven Okazaki’s profile of modern Hiroshima, which evokes the past in part by locating its traces in the present. But the Oscar went to Eric Simonson’s “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin,” which remembers Corwin’s historic radio address on the day the Germans surrendered in 1945. Walter Cronkite, Robert Altman, Studs Terkel and others take the film into analytical territory, digging at why Corwin’s poetry affected the nation so profoundly. Interview footage of a still-eloquent Corwin suggests the Oscar really might have been for lifetime achievement. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.)—Ben Kenigsberg